The battle to determine whether a Kansas City man convicted of murder has been wrongly incarcerated will hit another crossroad in January.
Attorneys for Ricky Kidd were scheduled to get a hearing before Jackson County Circuit Judge Sandra C. Midkiff in July to argue his innocence and ask for his immediate release. That plan was thwarted days before the case was scheduled when the Missouri Supreme Court stayed the hearing after Attorney General Josh Hawley filed a petition.
Hawley argued that because Kidd is not incarcerated in Midkiff’s jurisdiction, she is not empowered to hear the case. Kidd is currently at the state prison complex in Cameron, but was in Kansas City when paperwork was filed on his behalf.
Democratic Missouri House member Brandon Ellington of Kansas City has taken an interest in the case and questions what legal grounds the Attorney General is standing on. “The statute says that they’re supposed to file where they have custody at,” said Ellington. “Well, wherever he’s being shipped to is where they have custody. He filed in Jackson County, which had custody of him at the time.”
The Supreme Court will determine what happens next after it hears arguments from both sides after the new year.
Kidd was convicted in 1996 of a double murder that witnesses said involved three men. He became the lead suspect from an anonymous tip that his attorneys suspect came from one of the actual killers.
Kidd claims he and the mother of his child were at a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murders, filling out an application for a gun permit. (There was no online capability at the time.)
He and his co-defendant, Marcus Merrill, were convicted together even though a third person was never located. After his appeals were exhausted, Kidd’s case moved to a federal district court.
It was there that Merrill testified that it was he and a father and son, Gary Goodspeed, Sr., and Gary Goodspeed, Jr., had committed the crime. Evidence collected by investigators since the original trial that corroborated Merrill’s testimony was also presented.
But since the federal court’s legal standard states that evidence cannot be “new” if it was able to be discovered at the time of original trial, Kidd was denied a new court case or release from prison.
One eye witness at the original trial, Richard Harris, has also recanted his testimony that he saw Kidd commit the murder while walking nearby the incident. Kidd’s attorneys contend Harris originally testified against him under threat of the Goodspeeds.
Kidd is being represented at present by three attorneys who are working through the Midwest Innocence Center. One of them is Cindy Dodge, who worked as a lawyer for the Kansas City Prosecutor’s Office during the time it successfully convicted Kidd. She’s frustrated that the current prosecutor hasn’t seen fit to seek justice for him after everything that’s come to light.
“On every level, whether that be federal, state, municipal or attorney general, you have incredible discretion and authority under the law,” Dodge said. “And if you’re a prosecutor and you’re scared of the truth, then you shouldn’t be a prosecutor. All prosecutors are supposed to be doing is serving justice.”
Some high-ranking law enforcement personnel have lobbied for Kidd’s release after examining the circumstances of his conviction. In December 2016, Kansas City Police Commissioner Alvin Brooks sent a letter to then Governor Jay Nixon, asking him to pardon Kidd. Nixon declined.
Representative Ellington is suspect of Hawley’s motives in holding up Kidd’s hearing, given the parties who now think he was wrongly convicted.
“You have several prominent people in the criminal justice community that came out and said that he was innocent of the murder. And it’s also highlighted by the anomalies in the case. And now you have the attorney general intervening in the case. Why?”
Dodge can’t understand how the prosecutor and attorney general’s office can be so resistant to helping a person she thinks has clearly been wronged by the justice system.
“It’s very frustrating for me that a prosecutor and an attorney general’s office, who are supposed to be serving justice, can’t simply look at the situation for the value of what it really is,” Dodge said. “I can’t explain in words how disappointed I am.”
The attorney general’s office, citing the ongoing nature of the case, declined to comment to Missourinet for this story. Spokesperson Loree Anne Paradise did say an attorney for the office filed paperwork Friday in preparation for a Missouri Supreme Court hearing January 10th.
Representative Ellington says he’s heard firsthand from Kidd himself that County Circuit Judge Midkiff was about to give him a favorable judgement before the Supreme Court stayed the hearing. “According to what I’m getting from him is that the judge was set to grant him relief.”
Dodge says the most important thing for her at this point is to see that Kidd is released after 20 years in prison for what she contends is unjust incarceration. “I’ve fought too hard and believe too strongly in Ricky and his case. All I want is his freedom. I go to bed thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it.”
Kidd is serving a life without parole sentence for the double killing.